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PFF welcomes rule of law in publisher assault

(PFF/IFEX) - 5 April 2011 - Rarotonga, COOK ISLANDS - As a government minister faces the Magistrate's Court in Port Vila on 7 April linked to the March 4 assault of newspaper publisher Marc Neil-Jones, the Pacific Freedom Forum has welcomed the observance of Vanuatu's rule of law.

The magistrates court hearing will decide whether charges against Infrastructure and Public Utilities Minister Harry Iauko Iaris, over his alleged role in the widely reported and condemned assault last month of "Daily Post" publisher Neil-Jones, will proceed.

"The Vanuatu Police investigation into this matter has taken a month, and the Pacific Freedom Forum welcomes today's hearing as a significant sign of progress. We now await the matter's prompt passing through the Vanuatu legal system," says PFF chair Susuve Laumaea of Papua New Guinea.

"Observers internationally were concerned that the alleged assault of Mr Neil-Jones would join other reported attacks on Pacific media and journalists and disappear into a 'culture of impunity', with nobody being charged and the matter disappearing, until the next time," says Laumaea.

"We now call on all observers to let the Vanuatu legal system deal with this matter, and we also call on the media to report this matter's passage through the courts with appropriate professionalism," Mr Laumaea said.

"Given the international attention and condemnation the alleged assault attracted, no doubt this will be a test for the Vanuatu authorities to demonstrate that nobody is above the law, and also is a demonstration of how similar attacks on the media in other Pacific countries should be handled," says PFF co-chair Monica Miller, of American Samoa.

"We commend the perseverance, courage and professionalism of Neil-Jones and "Daily Post" Editor Royson Willie, as well as those officials who upheld due process into the complaint," she says.

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